The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

News Reports Index

1993 Jan-May

The Press
Monday, 8 March, 1993.

Creche staff seek $2.8M
by Peter Mathias

Compensation of nearly $2.8 million is being sought from the Christchurch City Council by 13 former workers at the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre.

Eleven former childcare workers are seeking $250,000 compensation each and two part-time cleaners seek $20,000 each.

The council made the workers redundant after the creche was abruptly closed on September 3 last year, when the Ministry of Education withdrew its operating licence after a police briefing.

The Southern Local Government Officers' Union last week filed personal grievance papers in the Employment Tribunal on behalf of the 13 former workers.

The workers include four women against whom sexual abuse allegations were made, and seven other childcare workers.

Grievance proceedings for Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis, aged 34, are being handled separately by a lawyer.

Ellis and three of the women Gaye Davidson aged 39, Mane Keys, aged 43, and Janice Buckingham, aged 45, have been committed for trial in the High Court on charges of alleged indecencies involving children who attended the creche.

The High Court has been asked to review the decision of the District Court judge who committed the accused for trial and will also hear applications to have the accused discharged for lack of evidence.

Deborah Gillespie, aged 30 was discharged by the High Court on Friday on the one remaining charge against her.

The union s secretary, Mr Peter Lawson, said the claims for compensation for the 11 former childcare workers were based on their careers having been destroyed.

They had been "labelled" by the circumstances surrounding the creche's closing.

"Most of these people will have taken professional training of some sort and spent several years doing it. That time is now completely wasted he said.

All 13 workers were given dismissal notices at 5.30pm when the creche was closed on September 3. The union successfully got the notices withdrawn but, with the exception of two childcare workers redeployed by the council, the workers were then made redundant on October 22.

The action was being taken because the union believed the council acted in an unjustifiable manner which led to severe disadvantage, humiliation, and trauma of the workers and resulted in unjustifiable dismissal for 11 of them said Mr Lawson.

The council's actions were taken before any charges had been laid he said. A hearing date for the claims had yet to be set.

The Christchurch City Manager, Mr John Gray said last night he had no comment